British Onions & what to do with them.

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This post started out in life as a quick recipe about onion gravy after receiving an email from Phipps PR. As one of the aims of the Chef Hermes blog is to share restaurant proved recipes with our readership, we thought ‘Yeah, not a problem’. Then as the days passed by, whilst our notes were jotted down, it became apparent that this was going to be a bigger task than just putting together a 1 recipe post. Somehow it had to be more than that. So the original brief was for onion gravy. No problem as there was already some beef shin & oxtail braising that would form the base for the sauce. Please bear in mind that this recipe is derived from professional kitchens, where alot of the preparation (mise en place) may be done in advance & in considerably different volumes.

Our Beef stock was made from braising;

Beef stock

  • 2kg Shin of Beef
  • 450g Oxtail
  • 2 Brown onions (peeled & cut into quarters)
  • 2 Carrots (peeled & cut in half lengthways)
  • Thyme
  • Parsley
  • 500ml Double Chicken stock
  • 1.5L Water
  • 100g Unsalted butter (diced)
  • 5 Black peppercorns
  • 3 Cloves of Garlic (green shoot removed)

Although this may seem a little extravagant to make stock, the Beef & Oxtail actually went on to a main course for the next day (and a future post).

Heat a thick based frying pan, then add a splash of oil then the butter. Heat until it reaches the ‘foaming’ stage, then carefully add enough of the vegetables so not to over crowd the pan (if this happens the veg will stew in the butter & you won’t get the caramelised effect you are after).

In the pan you are going to braise the meat in add the herbs & the peppercorns, then add the vegetables on top. Repeat the same process for colouring the meat. The more colour you get, the better. Lay the meat on top the vegetables and add the stock & water. Bring to the boil and place in the oven for about 3 hours on 130°C.

When cooked, gently lift out the meat & reserve, along with some of the carrots, for another dish.

To make the sauce

  • 1.5L of above Cooking liquid
  • 200ml Red wine
  • 2 Brown onions (roughly sliced)
  • 4 Brown onions (very finely sliced)
  • Butter & Seasoning

Strain the sauce through a chinois into another thick bottom pan. Skim and reduce over a high heat (skim occasionally), whilst you are doing this peel and roughly slice two onions. Add them to a frying pan on a medium heat with some oil until they start to colour, add the red wine and reduce until almost dry.

When the reducing cooking liquor is at the right consistency, add to the onions & red wine. The reason that the red wine is done like this rather than adding to the liquor & reducing is that it will retain more of it’s flavour. Bring to the boil and simmer until at the finished viscosity. Pass again through a chinois & reserve.

Now you have a classic restaurant jus, to make this into an onion sauce take the four onions sliced very thinly and put in a pan with a couple of glugs of oil & a sprinkling of sea salt. Put the lid on and gently heat for about five minutes (stirring occasionally) until the onions start to steam. Remove the lid and turn up the heat to a medium level until the water has evaporated. This is where it becomes a little trickier & requires patience. Reduce the heat to low and continue to stir more frequently. The natural sugars in the onions will slowly start to caramelise and are therefore prone to sticking to the bottom of the pan. After anywhere up to an hour later the onions will be ready. This ‘confit onion’ is also a versatile component which can be used in dishes such as Pissaladiere, an onion tart from Provence, France and so may be worth making a double batch and keeping it in the fridge.

Now add the onions to the jus you made earlier, bring to the boil slowly and there you have it, ‘Onion Gravy’, as tweeted last weekend. Long winded but worth all the effort.

Next up is a sweet onion purée, which is used as a building block in several recipes and is quite delicious just as an accompaniment with roast Lamb in it’s own right.

Sweet Onion Purée

  • 2kg  Brown Onions (Sliced)
  • 2 Cloves of garlic (Green shoots removed from the center)
  • 60g butter
  • Bouquet garni
  • Seasoning
  • 100ml Double cream

Chop the onion into 1cm dice

Sweat in the butter with a little salt and pepper. Add the bouquet garni and the garlic with a lid on until soft & starting to colour.

Drain in to a colander and reserve the juice.

Remove the bouquet garni & purée the onions for 5-8 mins in a liquidiser

Boil the cream, season and add to the onion purée. Pass through a chinois and correct the seasoning.

Using this purée it can be then utilised in the following recipes. The fricasse of kidneys actually uses both the jus & the purée and is very more-ish, where as the hot bavarois is more of a refined garnish reserved for restaurants.

Lamb Kidney & Lentil Fricassée

  • 4 Slices of Kidney
  • Large Pinch of Freshly chopped Parsley
  • 1 Table spoon of Finely diced & sweated shallots & garlic
  • 1 Table spoon Onion purée
  • 2 Table spoon Jus
  • 2 Table spoon Cooked Lentil du Pay

In a hot pan, fry the sliced kidney’s until coloured on both sides, add the sweated shallots & garlic. Mix with the kidneys for a few mins before adding the onion purée & the parsley. Start to coat the kidneys then add the lentils, then the Lamb jus. Check seasoning. This is enough for one person.

The main key to the recipe is that it is done quickly, in restaurant kitchens this is a last minute dish just prior to plating up.

The next recipe is a warm onion bavarois, it has been used in several restaurants for a few years now and is quite typical of the more modern cuisine advocated by the likes of Ferran Adria & Heston Blumenthal.

Warm Onion Bavarois

  • 300g Sweet Onion purée
  • 250g Whole milk
  • 150g Whipping cream
  • 150g Chicken stock (or fresh vegetable nage, not stock cubes)
  • 3.5g Gellan gum
  • Seasoning

Lightly grease with vegetable oil the moulds you intend to use (darioles, ramekins etc) and set to one side.

In a pan (but not on the heat), whisk together all the ingredients.

Place on a medium heat and whisk continuously, the mix will start to thicken slightly. Carry on whisking for a further 3-4 minutes when it has started to bubble. Then quickly pour into the greased moulds & chill.

To reheat for serving, just place the ramekin in a pan of water and simmer gently for 8-10 mins.

The thanks and credits, big thanks to Gemma at Phipps PR for thinking of the blog (sorry we didn’t use all the goodie you sent). The header image is courtesy of the British Onions website (if you drop the blog an email we’ll include your website address). If you would like more information, please feel free to contact BOPA, The British Onion Producers Association through the British Onions website.


Comments

5 Responses to “British Onions & what to do with them.”
  1. Chumbles says:

    Excellent post; I am so hungry I’m gnawing at the keyboard; I know precisely the Pissaladiere you refer to – one very hot Summer down in the South of France a local shop used to sell these and I became completely addicted to them; I still wistfully wander around shops in the North of France but there isn’t anything like it there – onion tarts and quiches, but that special kind of umami-laden caramelised onion tart… Thanks for making me hungry! And are you sure that the kidneys are enough for one person? One large and now very hungry person?

    • chefhermes says:

      Hi Chumbles, thanks again for your on going support.
      The kidney fricassee is really meant as a garnish, although cant really see any reason why you couldn’t do more and have it on it’s own.

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